A Seder for the Final Days of Passover
April 24, 25, 2011
The tradition of a Seder on the final day of Passover is an innovation of
Rabbi Israel (The BAL Shem Tov) the founder of the Chassidic movement.
The Rabbi taught that the wellsprings of salvation would overflow when his
teachings quenched the thirst of all Jews. In our time the Chabad Lubavitch
movement celebrates this Seder as a focus on the leadership of their Grand
Rabbi (Rebbe) Menachem Mendel Schneerson. The Rebbe has been
declared Messiah, sparking controversy in the Jewish community. Chabad
Lubavitch, following Jewish Law, understands that the Jewish messiah is
expected to be a literal savior. This means that the Messiah leads the
people from exile back to the Promised Land, rebuilds the Temple and
inspires world peace. Since the Rebbe has ascended to heaven he will have
to return to finish his work. The idea of a Second Coming strikes most
Jews as very Christian. On the other hand, after the destruction of the
Temple in Jerusalem God gave the children of Israel a second chance and
a Second Temple. The Second Temple was destroyed because of sectarian
fighting. In a way the pattern is set by the destruction of the First Set of
Tablets and Moses second ascent up Mount Sinai to receive the second set
of tablets. This is the Second Coming of the Law. The children of Israel
carried the shattered pieces of the first set in an Ark, as a reminder of the
incident of the Golden Calf, and a forgiving merciful God. We all live in a
shattered world and do well to learn the lessons of the second chance.
The Bible is split into Old and New, a first chance, and a second. Islam
declares the Quran the last chance, which makes sense if you believe in
progressive revelation. Of course by the logic that the later or latest is the
best we all will have to convert to Bahai or Communism, trading Das
Kapital , and its messianic visions for Jerusalem.
To reconstruct our sacred truths this Seder is only the beginning of a
discussion on religion revelation and redemption. We do not expect to fix
two thousand years of misunderstanding in one night of dialogue.
The preparation for this Seder begins with a review of all the other Seders.
Passover begins with Shabbat Hagadol and the first appearance of Elijah.
The presence of Elijah is essential at this Seder. Elijah appears only after
extensive preparation. In fact, as explained, the Hebrew word for
preparation comes from the same root as time. (Mezuman, zman) Be
prepared and ready to make time. When you make time, time becomes
holy, opening to an understanding of eternal truths. A simple meal
becomes a sacrament when you make time holy. Make Kiddush. Break
bread. Experience the presence of your Creator waiting to be your
Elijah has the answers if you have the questions. The focus at this Seder is
the announcement of the messianic redeemer. All other Seders are about
past events. This Seder ascends to the Arête at the top of the mountain.
The arête is a sharp crested dangerous place like the highest ridges of the
Alps. The lofty ideas of messiahs often fall off these high ridges. We agree
with Martin Buber that the concept of the messiah is “Judaism most
profoundly original idea.” This is also true of Christianity. On the Arête we
also find the sum of all good qualities that create character. Arête means
the perfection of excellence valor and virtue. Arête is virtue that gives arms
and hands to our most cherished human ideals and dreams of a better
world. Elijah comes to teach us how to interpret that dream.
Step two in your preparation is being ready to receive the message of
Elijah. This means leaving outdated ways of thinking at the door. We
humbly admit that religion has been powerless over tyranny and tyrants.
Whatever our religious belief or political affiliation we admit that Gods face
seems hidden. Rape, Manslaughter, murder, and war, are the headlines
Our history is about the abuse of power. We seem to have no modern
prophets to speak truth to this power. We turn to our comedians for comic
relief from the news, and often give up hope for any real change in the daily
reporting of our history.
If the Messiah is The Arête on the Arête how will she or he transmit her
teachings? Ask Elijah.
This Seder is a symposium that begins a dialogue about the future of
history with people from all religious traditions, including Jews, Christians,
and Muslims. We also invite atheists and agnostics. Unlike our Seder at the
beginning of Passover, this Seder is not necessarily for children. In fact, we
are going to discuss topics way beyond a Sunday school understanding of
religion, history, and the future of humanity.
Ten Topics and Questions before beginning
1.) Why is Moses not mentioned in The Passover Haggaddah?
2.) Was Moses the first Messiah?
3.) Why is Elijah the announcer of the Messiah?
4.) Is John the Baptist Elijah?
5.) Was Jesus the Messiah? A Messiah? How do Jews understand
6.) Is Christian worship based on Jewish foundations?
7.) Why have Christians failed to understand the Jewish
8.) Why have Jews failed to understand the Christian experience?
9.) How do Jews and Christians dialogue with Islam?
Finally, number ten, what do you think of Hans Kungs formula:
No Peace among the nations
Without peace among the religions.
No Peace among the religions
Without dialogue between the religions.
No dialogue between the religions
Without investigation of the foundations of the religion.
This Seder is structured according to Jewish tradition The Christian
community transforms the Seder into a commemoration of events in the
life of Jesus. The early church fathers often mention temptations to attend
Jewish worship. Judaizing was discouraged as a new religion differentiated
the old from the new. Now Judaizing is not a pejorative and is part of the
task at hand.
In the Jewish home meals are the foundation of liturgy and ritual. Ritual
washing before the meal is required. As water flows freely for all so does
the wisdom of Torah. Life comes from water, as does purity. The earliest
apostles attended the Temple daily and ate communal meals.( Acts 2:46)
The early Christian understanding of the Eucharist is an offering of praise
and thanksgiving, much like the Rabbis Grace after meals. Christian
worship is a love feast and the Seder of Messiah on the Seventh day of
Passover an ideal time to compare worship and to worship together.
The Messiahs Feast
A local Chabad House has invited all Jews to Moshiachs Feast on the final
day of Passover. The word “final” appears over and over again. The final
day of Passover is about the final liberation. The Founder of the Chassidic
movement, as explained, created the concept of a Seder for Messiah.
Is this the year we will be redeemed from the final exile?
If so, how will the final liberation take place?
Has the Messiah, finally, arrived?
Is Menachem Mendel Schneerson the Chabad Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rabbi)
the Final redeemer?
The announcement that the rabbi is Messiah is discussed heatedly by
everyone. Chabad is criticized for proclaiming a Messiah who has passed
away and will be returning. Most Jews are skeptical that a true messiah will
ever come since all previous messiahs have been false. The doctrine of a
personal Messiah has fallen on hard times in the Jewish community. The
Messianic dimension of Judaism causes great embarrassment.
This Seder is the ideal time to reopen discussion about the Messiah.
Rabbinic legalists admit that Christianity and Islam served the interests of
the God of history. Maiminodes discusses The Messiah at the end of The
Mishna Torah including a complete job description with qualifications.
This is the starting point of all traditional Jewish discourse about the
Reviewing the worldview of Maiminodes in the Mishna Torah I am struck by
its being stuck on ancient models of government and leadership. The
Messiah is evaluated in the final section called The Laws of Kings and
Their Wars. Twenty three commandments are listed, including the
appointment of a king. The laws also outline the need to exterminate the
Amalakites and rebuild the Temple. The final chapter (eleven) refers to
Messiah as King, one who will return us to the good old days of King
David, gather the dispersed of the Diaspora back to Israel, and reconstitute
the ancient judges and Sanhedrin. King David is referred to as Messiah, so,
in a way Messiah is the second coming of David.
The returned Messiah is not required to walk on water or to show any sign
or wonder. Also, Maiminodes reminds us it is human to err on the identity
of the Messiah, as did our great rabbi Akiba who proclaimed a warrior, Bar
Kochba, the redeemer.
Of course, the Messiah must be a success. Maiminodes did not consider
Jesus the Redeemer. Maiminodes seems to accept as fact the verdict of the
Bet Din (Court) that Jesus should be put to death. This needs further
discussion since the Sadducees had a court and every effort must be put
forth not to connect whatever happened then to today‟s Jews. Rabbinic
Judaism as we know it today did not exist during the time of Jesus.
Maiminodes does see Christian and Muslim contributions to Tikkun Olam.
Messiah will declare that the New Testament does not supersede the “Old”.
Maiminodes knew that the Quran is called a “Final Testament” but Messiah
will teach that it does not have the last word.
As in these Seders Elijah plays a key role in the future of religion.
Maiminodes teaches that Messiah comes to bring peace to the world, as
Elijah announces. We do not know the details of the coming of the Messiah
or how Elijah knows the identity of the true messiah.
Elijah welcomes us all in to the covenant of Abraham and Sarah.
Elijah attends every Seder, which he considers the table of God.
Elijah is the moderator of the final symposium on the end of the violence of
Elijah teaches all that they are messiahs, leaders, capable of transforming
secrets into basic teachings. Elijah brings us from mystery to mastery.
Elijah teaches the transformation of dream into reality.
Our greatest dream is to accomplish Tikkun Olam under the leadership of
God almighty. This is the role of messianism. Cynics scoff at the dream.
Modern Rabbis teach that death is the Messiah, or after the holocaust, at
least the angel of death. We restate with Martin Buber that Messianism is
“Judaism‟s most profoundly original idea.”
The Ahshlamta of Passover and the Future
As with every holyday the prophetic reading for that day defines the
supreme themes of the day. We read Isaiah 10:32-12:6.
A discussion of the Haftorah is essential for this Seder.
The final day of Passover celebrates the final redemption. The final
liberation according to tradition is inspired by the leadership of the
Messiah. Commenting on the Passover Haggadah the Lubavitcher Rebbe
teaches that ultimately personal redemption leads to the collective
redemption from our final exile. Lubavitcher Chassidim believe the Rebbe
is Messiah. Hopefully this will inspire dialogue between Jews and
Christians about the fulfillment of messianic prophecy. In the end we ask
ourselves about the role of a human messiah in the drama of redemption.
Remember, if we think of all of recorded history as a Seder we have not
completed the meal. The table remains the focus of fellowship as we let the
bread and wine speak. Praise God, who is always our salvation and hope.
For further study and discussion
Our sages teach that “the first redeemer is the final redeemer”. This does
not mean we are awaiting the second appearance of Moses. Moses is a
Levite and the messiah, according to tradition comes from the tribe of
Judah. Genesis 49:10 is often quoted as a verse that refers to the final
redeemer of Israel and the nations. Jacob gathers his twelve sons to tell
them, in a prophetic vision what will happen “In the end of days”.
Leadership will come from a descendent of Judah according to verse ten:
The scepter shall not depart from Judah
Nor the rulers staff from between his feet
Until the coming of Sheloh (Shiloh)
To messiah shall the obedience of the people be.
Many widely varying readings are given this verse. It is a fact of history that
the Kings of Judah ceased after the destruction of the Temple. Does this
mean the scepter of ruler ship did depart from Judah?
Christians believe that “Shiloh” is Jesus, the new and future King of the
The Rabbis and Christianity understand Shelow (Shiloh) to be a title of
Messiah. The word Sheloh may be compared to the word Sealah a word
that is often listed as not translatable by biblical scholars. Rabbinic
commentators, including Rashi read Sheloh (in Genesis 49:10) without the
Hebrew letter yould, as if it is a poetic form of „peace‟. My reading of the
word is that the Messiah will bring tranquility to the soul, peace in the
home, between the tribes, and finally between the nations.
The word Sealah occurs mostly in the Book of Psalms with a few mentions
by the prophet Habakkuk. Sealah in the Psalms means either pause, or “lift
up your voices”. Open the Book of Habakkuk and read the three chapters.
Notice in Chapter three the prophet punctuates his prayer with “Sealah”.
Prophecy and poetry walk arm in arm, and prayer is set to music. The
coming of Shiloh means the birth of a leader who is a prince of peace.
Habakkuk prays that God pour out wrath and judgment on the tyrants of
history and then remember compassion. This is Elijah‟s cue at the
Passover Seder to enter the door and sit with your family before singing
The Hallel. Silence comes after the storm, and then song.
The coming of Messiah is a splendor no words describe. No eyes have
penetrated Eden, Paradise. The righteous have always danced in Gods
presence and absence, patiently awaiting a messiah with firm faith. This is
described by our great rabbi poets, and by Habakkuk.
So „Sealah‟ means the uplifting of voice and hands to our creator, and
describes our coming prince of Shelo.. In our prayers we say:
All the living shall ever thank Thee, Sealah
And sincerely praise Thy name, O God,
Who art always our salvation and hope, Sealah
In the final analysis Sealah is a reminder that God is our savior and the
messiah, like Moses, is Gods Shepard.